EL SEGUNDO – Three Los Angeles players scored more than 20 points and the D-Fenders totaled 125 points of offense, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a fiery Rio Grande Valley squad as the home team fell to the Vipers, 140-125, at the Toyota Sports Center on Saturday.
The difference-maker in the contest was Vipers guard Gary Payton II, who finished with a career-high 51 points and 11 rebounds on 20-of-29 shooting. Houston Rockets assignee Kyle Wiltjer added 27 points and former D-Fenders guard Darius Morris had 19 to ensure the victory for Rio Grande Valley.
Los Angeles (7-3) was guided by 24 points from Justin Harper, while Vander Blue (21 points, five rebounds) and Ivica Zubac (21 points, nine rebounds) also had 20+ scoring efforts. Troy Devries scored 13 points, Jeff Ayres contributed 12 and Josh Magette added his fifth double-double of the year (10 points, 10 rebounds) to round out LA’s double-digit scorers.
The D-Fenders got out to a hot start in the first quarter, shooting 63.6 percent from the field as Zubac, the Lakers assignee, scored nine points in the frame. Los Angeles would escape the first quarter with a 34-33 lead. The home team would lead by as much as 12 points in the second frame, but it was all but offset as Payton continued to unleash an onslaught of offense. He would go on to score 17 points in the second quarter, forcing a 69-69 tie at the half.
Rio Grande Valley (7-2) took control in the final two quarters, once again a result of Payton and his 22 second-half points. The D-Fenders shot just 42.9 percent in the second half, but couldn’t mount a comeback as the Vipers tallied a 53.5 clip from the field. Wiltjer, assigned to the Vipers earlier in the day, complimented the RGV offense perfectly, knocking down four three-pointers in the second half to stretch the floor as the rest of the Vipers offense continued to look inside. He would finish with a 7-of-12 mark from long range.
Overall, the Vipers took the battle inside, outscoring the D-Fenders in the paint, 62-50. Rio Grande Valley shot 50.0 percent on the day, compared to 45.1 percent from Los Angeles. Both teams were able to convert from the charity stripe as LA and RGV were 25-of-30 (.833) and 32-of-38 (.842) from the charity stripe, respectively.
Los Angeles will be back in action next week, when the Reno Bighorns visit the Toyota Sports Center at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 8.